Monthly Archives: March 2014

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Upworthy, ageism, & post-Olympics Sochi

More and more, I see long-form writing being spread on short-form media.

I found two of this week’s 3 Great Stories through links on friends’ Twitter feeds, which struck me as ironic both then and now. Here is a social media service, designed for lightning-quick communication, often derided for the lack of depth it encourages through its 140-character Tweet limit. And yet, it has become — on some small level — a conduit to explore much larger works of writing.

My vantage point on Twitter is, I believe, not unique. When I use it, I typically want a quick scroll of headlines, quips, and commentary to keep me abreast of the latest news and conversation topics. But I also find myself turning to Twitter during pockets of down time, and in those moments, I find myself susceptible to being lured into a long-form read.

Here is what lured me in this past week:

Watching Team Upworthy work is enough to make you a cynic. Or lose your cynicism. Or both. Or neither (3/23/14, New York Magazine): Speaking of something that seemingly succeeds by functioning against conventional wisdom, enter Upworthy.

The web site known for its bluntly emotional headlines and sincere content is also notorious for its astounding ubiquity online. It is much-loved and much-hated — and the envy of virtually every web developer eager to duplicate Upworthy’s rags-to-Internet-riches success.

Give credit, then, to writer Nitsuh Abebe for penning a fascinating article that goes behind the scenes with Upworthy’s 40-person staff. Abebe covers all angles of the Upworthy saga, from its founders’ mission to its detractors’ skepticism.

More than that, Abebe, normally the music critic at New York Magazine, performs the deft trick of revealing various details of the Upworthy creative process while still acknowledging the seeming mystery of the site’s monstrous performance. He maneuvers around that tension throughout the piece, which remains absorbing throughout.

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An outstanding NPPA honor, and a prideful achievement

At the moment when I received one of the greatest honors of my career, I could not have felt less prestigious.

I was not dressed in my black-tie finest, attending some lavish awards banquet, hoping to walk up on a stage and give an acceptance speech. I was not surrounded by my colleagues, loved ones, and journalists from all over.

I was sitting alone on my couch, in my gym clothes, staring at a laptop.

And that was completely, absolutely, undoubtedly fine.

The TV branch of the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, held its annual awards show Monday night. The association named its photographers and stations of the year for each of its three regions. It also named its national Solo Video Journalist of the Year, in a category full of talented one-person bands who shoot and edit their own reports.

I am thrilled to announce that I was named 2013’s Solo Video Journalist of the Year.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring “Mercer 78, Duke 71”

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

A significant role of the media is to chronicle the major events of our society.

If something captures the attention of the nation this week, I should ideally be able to look back in five years and remember how we all discussed and covered it.

And I should also be able to relive how the various spectacles and sideshows that surrounded it.

In the moment, though, we tend to share the spectacles and sideshows as much as the actual events.

This past Friday, 14-seed Mercer stunned the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Online the following day, I saw a slew of articles getting shared about it — not about the game, but about what made it more than a game.

Here are three such stories that did their job exceedingly well:

Duke loses, world wins (3/21/14, New Yorker): How strange for staffers at the New Yorker to see this article atop its “Most E-Mailed” list.

Despite some strong competition in the Top 5, this was Number 1.

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PODCAST EPISODE #14: Dave Schwartz, sports anchor, KARE-TV

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“What is it like to cover the Olympics?”

I have heard this question from virtually everyone I know since I came back from Russia three weeks ago.

But before I answer, I generally need to ask a question of my own:

“Which part?”

Reporting from the Olympics combines an array of unique experiences for any journalist. On the list:

  • covering a massive international event
  • corresponding from a foreign country
  • working extremely long hours, with zero days off, for nearly a month

In the case of the 2014 Winter Olympics, you can throw a few more items onto the list, such as concerns about security and privacy in what many consider a hostile country.

I documented my experiences through my numerous on-air stories as well as fifteen blog entries from Russia. But I promised I would use this space, soon after I returned, to showcase the viewpoint of someone else.

Enter Dave Schwartz.

The sports anchor and reporter for KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul worked several seats down from me in Sochi, but in some ways he experienced the Winter Games far differently. He covered numerous local athletes and events, where I typically focused on the Olympic atmosphere. He worked with a partner from his station, while I mostly worked by myself.

And on a personal level, Schwartz spent three weeks in Sochi, ten time zones away from his wife and kids.

Schwartz joined me on the latest episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring elevators, the Paralympics, & Busta Rhymes Island

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I recently read an intriguing interview with Nate Silver in which the so-called “stats superstar” talks about his new web site, FiveThirtyEight, under the ESPN platform. In regards to data journalism versus traditional journalism, Silver says this:

This is data journalism, capital-D. Within that, we take a foxlike approach to what data means. It’s not just numbers, but numbers are a big part of this. We think that’s a weakness of conventional journalism, that you have beautiful English language skills and fewer math skills, and we hope to rectify that balance a little bit.

Silver makes a great point. Analysis pieces typically downplay the importance of numbers, research, and scientific techniques. They often rely more on forceful opinion and personality.

At the same time, numbers without context mean little — and can be dangerously misinterpreted.

I am excited to see what Silver & Co. have up their sleeves for FiveThirtyEight … and whether their model will penetrate the traditional journalistic model in any tangible way.

And now, your 3 Great Stories from the week that was:

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The value of “thank you” (with help from Bill Plaschke)

The expression is as old as time (or at least as old as “How I Met Your Mother”):

Nothing good happens after 2 AM.

Allow me to offer an exception, starring a budding TV reporter, a veteran newspaper writer, last month’s Winter Olympics, and an easy expression of gratitude.

It is the result — but, I hope, not the end result — of an action I took ten years ago.

In 2004, I had not yet received my current job as a reporter in a major city. I had not yet covered an Olympics, a Democratic Convention, or any major news event. I had not yet achieved many of the successes to which I aspired.

I had barely passed my first year as a professional.

And I was struggling.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Niagara Falls, skydiving, and snails

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

First thing’s first: this web site looks a little bit different.

I am excited to introduce some visual changes to the Telling The Story blog, thanks to an exciting new WordPress theme that will give me numerous options as a blogger and storyteller. Take a look around:

  • Click on the icon in the top-left corner to see a slide-out sidebar full of options.
  • Check out the various posts, and notice the color-coding that now exists for each category.
  • Most of all, enjoy! The content will remain the same — 3 Great Stories every Monday and a fresh commentary or podcast every Wednesday — but with some visual perks and additions.

Without further ado, let’s kick off the second year of the Telling The Story blog with three terrific stories from this past week:

(Not so) frozen Niagara Falls (3/5/14, WGRZ-TV Buffalo): This piece found a soft spot in my heart.

Not only does it come from my former stomping grounds (Buffalo, NY), my former employer (WGRZ-TV, the city’s NBC affiliate), and my former co-worker (reporter Dave McKinley), but it lovingly showcases the area’s greatest claim to fame:

Niagara Falls.

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